IT WAS WINTER IN North Dakota and I'd done my time and paid my dues flight instructing through enough brutal, sub-zero blizzards -- the ones so cold they turn airplane oil into a congealed blob. All it took was one travel brochure featuring palm trees, gin-clear waters and the eye-opening revelation that it was possible to fly in tropical paradise and still be on American territory. Suddenly, I was Eastern Air Lines bound to the U.S. Virgin Islands. About a month after my move to St. ...

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